The future is bright for Chas and Abby

 

Before meeting little Labrador Abby, Hobart man Chas felt ‘vacant’. Today, things are different. Read their story to see the difference one little Lab has made.

Or, listen to it here: 

 

Imagine waking up from a nightmare, unable to move but not able to go back to sleep. You try to say your partner’s name, but the words get stuck in your throat.

Go back to the start of this year and this is exactly what Chas was experiencing most nights.

He didn’t know how to make it stop.

It was draining, and every day was tough.

At the start of 2015, things were going well for Chas. Based at training facilities in Townsville, the 28-year-old had an aspiring career in the military.

But halfway through the year things changed, when Chas was discharged due to injuries he received through training. This took a huge toll on him not just physically, but mentally too. He had to completely rethink what he was going to do with his life.

Arriving back home in Hobart, Chas struggled to adjust. Panic attacks had started.

“It just accelerated, and once I was out of the military, coming back into this environment was extremely different to being in Townsville. I just felt very alone, and anxiety and depression took over.”

He couldn’t even make it through a day at Uni. His anxiety would take hold so much that he’d have to rush home. He lived like this for more than a year. It was hardly living.

Chas’ partner, Philly, was there for him when she could be. But that was the problem. She couldn’t be there every time an attack came on. She was so worried about him.

Enter Abby, whose career path also took an unexpected turn.

Abby came into the Puppy Development Program at Guide Dogs Tasmania at a mere eight weeks of age. Bright eyed, mischievous, and ready to begin her journey to become a Guide Dog. Ultimately, it was hoped, she would change the life of a Tasmanian who was blind or vision impaired.

Abby as a little pup

8-week-old Abby, in 2014. We had high hopes she’d make a big difference.

During her training though, she experienced ongoing skin allergies, which meant it would be too difficult for a vision impaired handler to monitor and treat. Just like Chas was discharged from his career prematurely, so too was Abby.

This was not how we hoped things would go.

Chas knew that service dogs had helped other veterans with their treatment plans and adjustment back to civilian life. Just patting a dog releases serotonin, and helps lower stress levels. As a dog lover himself, Chas wondered if this might work for him. What did he have to lose?

Chas contacted Guide Dogs Tasmania when he heard we were running a Companion and Therapy Dog Program, where dogs that were not suitable for guiding would be reclassified to help people in other ways.

Following a careful matching process by Guide Dogs Tasmania, Abby and Chas’ paths aligned on January 30, this year.

Waiting at home with Philly, Chas admits that he’d never been more nervous. ‘Would she even like us?’ he wondered. But, tail wagging (and a little nervous herself) Abby came through the door and Chas’ fears were put to rest. She was everything he had hoped for.

It has only been a few months since Chas and Abby met, but it feels like they’ve been together forever.

Guide Dog puppy Abby with Chas

Things have actually turned out pretty well for the pair. Image: Rob Maver

Chas can now concentrate at Uni. He no longer needs to rush home when everything gets too much. He has someone on his side that shows him that everything will be ok. And while things aren’t perfect, they’ve certainly improved since Abby came along.

His panic attacks have drastically reduced, from almost daily, to once or twice a month.

In Chas’ own words, he “feels more alive”.

“The future seems brighter, not just grey. I’m not just vacant or waiting to die. I’m around.”

Abby might not realise just how significant this change in Chas has been. But if there’s one person who does, it’s Philly. She can see that Abby is not just a pet for Chas. She’s his life-line.

“She is there when he struggles with nightmares, and during his appointments. One nudge or kiss from Abby can pull Chas free when everything feels out of control. It is so wonderful to see him happy, confident and at peace with many of the obstacles he has faced. I am so thankful that she found him.”

Abby is not a failure. She has simply taken on a different life-changing role. And because of Abby, Chas can now see a brighter future. She is a star.

Not every one of our dogs can become a Guide Dog. But every one of our dogs will change a life.

By altering Abby’s pathway, she is now guiding Chas through his life, post-Army. It’s not the guiding we’d originally intended, but she’s there for him, making a positive difference to his life every day. We’re proud of that. Her training has resulted in something very special. Enjoy their story, enclosed.

Please consider making your tax-deductible donation. Your gift will ensure each of our dogs change lives, whatever path they take. Thank you for your support.

Abby the Labrador shakes hands with Chas

Abby and Chas are in this together. Image: Rob Maver